The Myths of Conservativism in Britain and America

Remarks to the Oxford Union, Oxford, England

Earlier this month, John D. Podesta, President and CEO of the Center of American Progress, delivered remarks to the Oxford Union in England. His speech discussed the parallels between conservatism in Britain and America, following in the aftermath of the Bush administration’s disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina. Podesta outlined the false choices the radical right has presented and offered progressive alternatives to the problems Americans face, including affordable health care, education reform, and the strategic redeployment of our troops in Iraq.

Here is an excerpt:

We are now at a teachable moment in my country when it is conservatism that seems to have run its course — when the failures of its pillars and principles have become glaringly apparent.

As Clinton and Blair learned in their time, it is not sufficient to capture the trust of the voting public by simply criticizing those who hold power.  What remains is the prerequisite of modernization — persuading the public that our program is right for our time, our challenges, our needs and our aspirations.

Just as I am urging my colleagues at home to reform and renew the progressive agenda, it is my hope after having witnessed so closely the collaboration of the New Democrats and New Labour and the failures of contemporary conservatism, that progressives here in this country will not get on the back foot when it comes to modernization and reform in your country.

We are at pivot points in history, in America and here in Britain, and I believe that progressive parties are the first and best hope for the people in both lands.

Read the full text of John Podesta’s remarks (PDF)

John Podesta is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for American Progress.